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Witness to deadly boat crash near Vanderbilt Beach speaks

We spoke to the witness of a swimmer-involved boat crash in Collier County.

We told you about the deadly boat crash that killed swimmer Onofrio Sozio, 57, in the water near Vanderbilt Beach recently.

A video was taken moments after investigators say the boat’s driver threw the swimmer a life jacket and took off.

“The first night I didn’t sleep,” said Kyle Coery, who was visiting from Ohio.

Sozio’s family is heartbroken. A close friend says they were here on the beach when their loved one got hit.

“People didn’t know what to do,” Corey said. “Everyone was panicking and in shock.”

It’s a nightmare Corey can’t erase from memory. He was enjoying vacation when he saw the crash from on shore.

“Looked over at the water and saw the boat sitting there, saw a guy really close to the boat but couldn’t tell exactly what had happened,” Corey said. “I saw the boater throw a life preserver out to the guy in the water.”

Investigators say 75-year-old James Allen is the boater who took off after Sozio was hit and later died from his injuries.

“When we carried him and picked him up, I saw his injuries,” Corey said. “I knew he wasn’t just hit by the boat. I could tell the propeller had hit the man.”

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says Allen hit Sozio as he swam about 40 yards out.

“You could imagine if you’re in a boat sitting up high and you see a little head, it may look like a buoy with the sun hitting it,” Corey said.

And a lifetime boat captain says it’s irresponsible on the part of the boat driver for what went down.

“When you hit an individual in the water, I think it’s ignorance on the guy on the count,” captain Gene Luciano said.

Luciano has been a charter boat captain for nearly 50 years.

”I mean you got to pay attention to what you’re doing; you got to keep your eyes open; you got to look in front to the port and starboard side,” Luciano said.

The U.S. Coast Guard says wearing bright colors and swimming in a group or with a buoy can help boaters see swimmers.

Allen is due back in court at the end of March.

One mistake can cost a life.

”It’s absolutely a shame,” Luciano said. “It really is.”

Reporter:Gina Tomlinson
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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